Skip to main content

The Conversation: Cut from a different cloth

By Reading and Writing | 7 November 2022

Join our panel of experts as we take a look at Queensland’s past and future culture and identity through tea towels, travel art, amateur collecting and the changing depiction of Queensland through our enduring motifs. 

Hear from historian Emeritus Professor Peter Spearritt; history professor and passionate defender of ‘kitsch’, Amy Clarke, Director of the UQ Anthropology Museum and ARC Research Fellow, Michael Aird, and The Conversation’s Arts & Culture Editor, Jane Howard – as they look at Queensland’s cultural artifacts from 1950 on and explore how we have changed (or not). 

They will answer important questions such as what drives our urge to collect? Is art printed on a tea towel still art? What types of souvenirs should we have at the Olympics? Are pineapples, surfers and kangaroos still the best way to represent Queensland? 

Soak up history and all things nostalgic while you reminisce, remember and see what comes out in the wash. 

This free event was live streamed and both onsite and online audience members were invited to submit questions to the expert panel. 


Jane Howard (Chair) is a Walkley award-winning journalist. She is currently editor of arts and culture at The Conversation, and sits on the board of Writers SA. As a freelance journalist and critic working across Australia and Asia, Jane is a regular contributor to Guardian Australia. She has had writing commissioned in England, Scotland, Canada, and the Czech Republic; been translated into multiple languages; and has appeared in publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, RealTime, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow, Crikey, Junkee, and The Stage, and Kill Your Darlings where she was contributing editor. Jane’s artistic work explores writing in collaborative digital spaces; and her research work has primarily looked at the status of women in the arts.  Her report, How Australian theatre rebalanced its gender disparity, published by the ABC, won the Arts Journalism Prize at the 2019 Mid-Year Walkley Awards.

Professor Peter Spearritt is Emeritus professor at the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, Faculty of Humanties and social Sciences at the University of Queensland. Born in Melbourne, and educated at North Sydney Boys High School, the University of Sydney and ANU, Peter Spearritt is an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Queensland. His research interests include housing, public transport, heritage conservation, coastal greenspace and urban water policy. He has held posts at Macquarie, Monash, ANU, and the University of Potsdam. His book Sydney’s Century won the NSW Premier’s prize in 2000. Chair of the University of Queensland Press Board (2005-13), he thinks public universities should make all their research freely available to the public, hence his work on the Queensland Places and Victorian Places websites, the only states in Australia yet to have such scholarly websites. 

Dr Amy Clarke's primary research interests are focused on the promotion of regional and national identities via architecture, themed environments, and cultural heritage. This saw Amy become a leader in the emerging discourse of ‘heritage diplomacy’, and she published a comprehensive review of this concept in The Handbook of Cultural Security (2018). Related research outputs and ongoing investigations range across such topics as: the role of history and heritage in Scottish nationalism; the role of history and heritage in Australian diplomatic relations in South East Asia and the Pacific; and the communication of regional and national identities and brands through themed environments (restaurants, hotels, pubs, etc.) and roadside attractions—most notably the Big Things across Australia! Amy is also interested in the notion of ‘authenticity’ in heritage and related spaces (theme parks, shopping malls, open-air museums, and so on). Amy presently serves on the Board for Sunshine Coast Open House, the region’s largest public architecture and design festival. She was Deputy Editor for Australia ICOMOS’s journal Historic Environment (2019-2022), and an Editorial Board Member for the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) between 2015-2021. She is regularly featured on Australian radio and television as an expert commentator on history and heritage.

Michael Aird is Director of the UQ Anthropology Museum and ARC Research Fellow. He has worked in the area of Aboriginal arts and cultural heritage since 1985 maintaining an interest in documenting aspects of urban Aboriginal history and culture. In 1996 he established Keeaira Press an independent publishing house, producing over 35 books. He has curated over 30 Exhibitions and has been involved in numerous projects in the area of art, history and research.

Presented by State Library of Queensland and The Conversation, the world's leading free, fact-based news source written by academics and edited by journalists. The Conversation is an online independent source of news and views, drawn from university, CSIRO and research institute experts and delivered direct to the public. 

The discussion is linked to Queensland to a T exhibition, which gives a unique look into Queensland’s culture and identity between 1950 and 2016, reflecting changing ideas and interests—and the stubborn longevity of some stereotypes. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the speaker are their own and the promotion of products/services is not endorsed by State Library.


Your email address will not be published.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.